Beyond Borders

Canadian friend Rick Drew sends me this infinitely sad picture of a dead bookshop. (‘It’s deceased, it’s pushing up the daisies.’) Borders wasn’t a good shop but at least it had some books on its shelves. Now it just has a sad motto, and will then become a Starbucks filled with people who have nothing […]

The */***** Controversy

One star or five stars? Do you bother to rate the books you read on Amazon? There’s a new row brewing, and it’s over the way in which these ratings may be manipulated. Out of 69 ratings on the US site of Amazon for the recent novel, ‘The Priest’s Graveyard’ it has apparently received 51 […]

The London Author Hardly Anyone Knows

He is one of the greatest London authors you’ve never heard of. He wrote possibly the best Second World War novel of them all, and his masterpiece of London life is virtually unknown – reading ‘King Dido’ I finally understood the missing links in the London before me. So what happened to Alexander Baron? This […]

The Fabulous Illness

The Thames Festival signifies the traditional end of summer, although Londoners know summer never actually started this year. Autumn is book time, when most of the literary awards take place and readings, events and festivals for the written word start. I’m be hitting the ground running for a packed season this year, but one thing […]

Embrace The Unpopular

Strange Attractor is an extraordinary magazine, although with just four issues in seven years I hesitate to call it a magazine at all. Rather, it’s a series of anthologies pf the esoteric, filled with arcane but highly readable essays and articles on subjects ranging from Chinese sleeping sickness and misanthropic Victorian lemming-fanciers to Arthur Machen’s […]

Chinese Puzzles

At the start of the 20th century, authors like Sax Rohmer (real name; Arthur Ward) were penning tales of imperial adventurers battling ‘yellow peril’ conspirators, amidst a prevailing fear that the Chinese were inherently criminal by nature. Ward was attacked for his racial stereotyping at the time of publication, and now the novels are dismissed […]

If You Want To Know Someone, Look At Their Bookshelves

If that’s true, I’m so screwed. According to the Independent, the home library will easily survive the onslaught of the ebook because we like to use it to signify our personalities: ‘There aren’t many purchases which, once used, would be placed on proud display in our living rooms, considered a vital part of our identity […]

Artifice VS Realism

This is something that has interested me for a while. A very well-known writer who is a friend (and therefore I won’t name him here) is a brilliant observer of the everyday, and writes about it beautifully – but his plots stink. What you get is brilliant natural observation – and then when you get […]

The Five Star Treatment

The Times suggests that authors are paying ‘reputation management’ agencies thousands to employ people to push up their book ratings into the bestseller lists with favourable reviews. There is a simpler way authors can do this. Write a better book. Also in the report, TripAdvisor is being accused of posting more fraudulent reviews. Again, agencies […]

Breaking The Readership Barrier

I have a feeling I need to pull the stops out for the next Bryant & May here in the UK. In the US the series does better and better, but here we lag far behind. This isn’t helped by the fact that WH Smith, the ubiquitous railway station-souk, thinks they’re a mite too clever […]